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Martha Burnett

1. When do you feel at your most attractive?

When my hair is clean and styled, I have done decent job of my make-up and I am wearing something I like. This can be anytime - going to work, going to an event or just heading downtown.

2. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice or admire?

I notice women who can get away with outlandish things - hair colour, tattoos, interesting but unusual combinations. I do look at women my age (60's) to get ideas of what might be appropriate or inappropriate ( in my opinion!).

3. What are some things you admire about how other women present themselves?

I admire women who look comfortable in their skin no matter what age. I live in Vancouver. Thus, I admire young Indo-Canadian women who do the most fabulous things with their eye makeup, and I admire young Asian women who all seem to wear clothes soooo well!

4. Was there a moment in your life when something “clicked” for you about fashion or dressing or make-up or hair? What? Why did it happen then, do you think?

Things really started to click for me in my 50's when I realised I could NOT shop at certain stores anymore and at the same time promised myself NEVER to shop at a store like "Talbots"! I realised I should pay attention more to "grooming" (i.e. hair and makeup) because I was heading into an "invisible" zone, as older women do, and did not want to call the "wrong" kind of attention to myself.

5. What are some shopping rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but which you follow?

I like minimalism. A LOT. It's not for everyone, I realise. I have silver hair - which people often compliment me on - but it means certain colours wash me out completely. Although I wear white, black and grey a fair bit - deep blues also work and of all things, shocking pink! Regarding shopping - I know my size at Zara and Banana Republic, so I do shop online - again, not for everyone.

6. What are some rules about dressing you follow, but you wouldn't necessarily recommend to others?

similar to above! I do wear black jeans over blue jeans because I think it's more age appropriate for me.

7. What is the most transformative conversation you have ever had on the subject of fashion or style?

I have yet to have that conversation, sadly. I love your book, btw!!!

8. Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, chores, etc.? Please explain.

At this point in my life, I am still working (I want to retire in the next year and a half or so). I have things down pat pretty well. I am financially secure, and my husband and I do travel to interesting places. I am a good cook. My kids are grown. I own a Dyson, so that takes care of a lot of chores (hahahaha). I don't buy expensive clothes. A good coat - yes. Good shoes - yes. Eileen Fisher pants - yes. Otherwise, I am not seduced by the concept of spending a huge amount of money on that "fabulous piece" the magazines love to refer to!

9. Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple? Why do you think you keep buying this thing?

Good question! I don't have things like this that you are talking abut, but I have often bought 2 of the same sweater for sure. I also have 2 pairs of Blundstone boots.

10. Have you ever successfully given someone a present of jewelry or clothing that you continue to feel good about?

I gave one of my daughters a pair of Wolford leggings that she really appreciated. Hmmmm - possibly other things but nothing comes to mind right now!

11. Is there any fashion trend you’ve refused to participate in and why? 

Lots of them over the years though hard to recall specifics. I dressed like a hippie when that was really in style but find it weird when women try nowadays. I wore mini skirts in the 1960's but find the "return" to these styles also somewhat disingenuous. I am not a trend person as such.

12. Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style has been passed down to you, or not?

Nothing whatsoever. My mother was a child of the 1930's Depression. She could not have cared less! about fashion! My body type is not like hers, either. I got some decent values from her, though.

13. Have you stolen, borrowed or adapted any dressing ideas or actual items from friends or family?


14. Was there a point in your life when your style changed dramatically? What happened?

No. I have gone with the flow but settled into something I think is my own style, as mentioned, over the last 10 years or so.

15. Is there anything political about the way you dress?

Not overtly political, no. I'm not into "logos" either.

16. Please describe your body.

5 ft 4 inches tall. Good weight for my height. Legs not very long. Breasts bigger than I'd like but wouldn't alter them surgically! I run, I do adult ballet and I think that shows.

17. Please describe your mind.

At this point in my life, I feel pretty good. Retirement is in the near future and that is something I do need to think about a lot more. I have been through the deaths of parents and parents-in-law. I have been through settling of estate issues that haven't been a picnic. I am a positive person.

18. Please describe your emotions.

Emotionally stable. Excellent marriage.

19. What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?

hahahaha - it's a Friday afternoon. I am back from work and already in flannel pyjama pants and a long sleeve t-shirt! My hair is bob/chin length and right now pulled back. Makeup still on and holding up pretty well from this morning! There are some good products out there these days to help!

20. In what way is this stuff important, if at all?

It is important. It is part of who we are. It is our history.

21. With whom do you talk about clothes?

My daughters. Colleagues at work.

22. How do institutions affect the way you dress?

At this point in my life, I don't care! I just aspire to be an elegant old lady!

23. Do you think you have taste or style? Which one is more important? What do these words mean to you?

I have a tiny bit of both. My definitions are probably pretty standard!

24. Do you remember the biggest waste of money you ever made on an item of clothing?

I have never wasted a huge amount of money on anything, but I have bought some inexpensive things on a whim which I wore once and then put into the charity bin.

25. Are there any dressing tricks you’ve invented or learned that make you feel like you’re getting away with something?

Scarves - long scarves! Wool ones, silk ones, cotton ones! They do add colour and style to a minimalist wardrobe.

26. Do you have style in any areas of your life aside from fashion?

I think I present dinners really well. I also have a lot of paintings in my house that are well placed.

27. Can you recall some times when you have dressed a particular way to calm yourself or gain a sense of control over a situation that scared you?


28. Would you say you “know what you like” in the area of fashion and clothing? If so, do you also know what you like in other areas of life, that is, are you generally good at discernment? Can you say where your discernment comes from, if you have it? Or if you don’t have it, why or why not?

I think I would say this. I live in a pretty artistic community. Life experiences add to this somewhat as well.

29. Did your parents teach you things about clothing, care for your clothing, dressing or style? What lessons do you remember? Or did you just pick things up?

Nada. Though my father wore tweed jackets and corduroy pants well. He was an architect, so he was less formal in some ways though he would wear a tux well when he had to.

30. What sorts of things do you do, clothing or make-up or hair- wise, to feel sexy or alluring?

Good question to someone in my age range. I love LeLabo Rose body cream! That makes me feel great.

31. Many people say they want to feel “comfortable,” or that they admire people who seem “confident.” What do these words really mean to you?

Not sure. Passing on this one.

32. If dressing were the only thing you did, and you were considered an expert and asked to explain your style philosophy, what would you say?

Less is best. Dress for your body type. Dress age appropriately after age 60. Don't wear anything too long or too short. Keep jewellery to a minimum. Stacked rings are great. Wear cool glasses. Wear hats if people always compliment you when you do (some women were made for hats!). I have trouble with people who somehow inhabit a different decade in their dress! I once heard that this is because it was time they were the happiest or most comfortable.

33. What is really beautiful, for you, in general?

Someone who exudes a tremendous amount of calm or someone who exudes a tremendous amount of energy!

34. What do you consider very ugly?

Hard to comment on that without seeming elitist. Smoking is ugly. Very ugly.

35. Are you generally a good judge of whether what you buy will end up being worn? Have you figured out how to know in advance?

It's always a learning process!

36. When you look at yourself before going out, and you are trying to see yourself from the outside, can you describe a bit about what this “other person” is like? What do they like, dislike, what sorts of judgments do they have? Is this “outer eye” based on someone you know or once knew?

No. Too hard.

37. What is your process getting dressed in the morning? What are you considering?

I just want to be sure I look decent and don't overlook things in my cupboard, i.e. forgetting they are there! I like the shop in your own closet idea!

38. What are you trying to achieve when you dress?

Neatness. Smoothness. Comfort too of course.

39. What, for you, is the difference between dressing and dressing up?

Good wear vs work wear vs leisure time wear. These are all pretty distinct for me.

40. If you had to wear a “uniform” what would it look like?

Minimalists do kind of wear a uniform! Dark pants or skirt. Dark tights. Cool Zara type sleeveless blouse. Nice Banana Republic jacket or sweater. Good shoes.

41. What would you say is “you” and what would you say is “not you”?

Not me is anything frilly, patterned, fussy etc.

42. What is your cultural background and how has that influenced how you dress?

Good question. Nice middle class Jewish girl who grew up in a nice part of Montreal and who now lives in Vancouver. Things are less formal on the west coast.

43. Do you remember a time in your life when you dressed quite differently from how you do now? Can you describe it and what it was all about for you?


44. What sorts of things do you do, clothing, make-up or hair-wise, to feel professional?

I buy good makeup (I like Nars and Laura Mercier). I use the better hair products (right now Kevin Murphy). I like Origins skin care products. I use a good flat iron.

45. How do you conform to or rebel against the dress expectations at your workplace?

We are pretty laid back at work. I am lucky.

46. Do you have a dress code, a school uniform, or a uniform that you wear for an extracurricular activity?

Running gear for running. Yoga wear for ballet.

47. Are there ways in which you conform to or rebel against these uniforms?


48. Do you find it comforting or constraining to have a uniform?


49. What is an archetypal outfit for you; one that you could have happily worn at any point in your life? What do you like about it?

A very cool BR Monogram jacket (kind of boucle) and skirt. A very cool fair isle sweater. Black jeans.

50. Do you ever wish you were a man or could dress like a man or had a man’s body? Was there ever a time in the past?


51. If there was one country or culture or era that you had to live in, fashion-wise, what would it be?

Hmmmmm- aside from the corsets, Jane Austen's time.

52. Do you consider yourself photogenic?


53. When you see yourself in photographs, what do you think?

hahahahah. As long as I am smiling, I think I look ok!

54. Are there any figures from culture, past or present, whose style you admire or have drawn from?


55. Have you ever had a dream that involved clothes?


56. What would be a difficult or uncomfortable look for you to try and achieve?

wouldn't go there!

57. If you were totally comfortable with your body, or your body was a bit closer to what you wish it was like, what would you wear?

I would like to have been taller, is all!

58. Is there anyone that you are trying to attract or repel when you dress?

My husband is a wonderful guy. He is very complimentary!

59. Are there any dressing rules you’d want to convey to other women?


60. What do you think of perfume? Do you wear it?

LeLabo rose products, as mentioned.

61. What are some things you need to do to your body or clothes in order to feel presentable?

A nice long shower and a hair wash is pretty much what it takes to get started down that road!

62. How does makeup fit into all this for you?

I love eye make up. I wear it but try not to over-do it. I am into tinted moisturiser but never foundation! I like bronze-y lipsticks.

63. Is there a certain look you feel you’re expected to like that you have absolutely no interest in? What is it? Why aren’t you interested?

Good question. I don't think so. There are fewer expectations of women my age, I think.

64. Can you describe in a basic way what you own, clothing and jewelry-wise?

Things mentioned above. I have some nice rings and bracelets. I don't wear earrings.

65. What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?

I have a fabulous pair of Chloe shoes I bought for about $30 online from China that cost $400 in Canada. I swear they aren't knock offs because when I tried to buy a second pair, they had disappeared from the website!

66. Tell us about something in your closet that you keep but never wear. What is it, why don’t you wear it, and why do you keep it?

Aha - I do have a couple of things. A peasant type blouse I have had for over 30 years is one. It's too worn, but I adore it.

67. Looking back at all your purchases over the past five to fifteen years, can you generalize about what sorts of things were the most valuable to buy?

I would not go so far as to say anything really aside from good shoes, maybe.

68. Is there an item of clothing that you once owned, but no longer own, and still think about or wish you had back? What was it, what happened to it, and why do you want it back?

Yes - a Kenzo cowl-necked tunic I had a long time ago! I have no idea what happened to it.

69. If you had to throw out all your clothes but keep one thing, what would you keep?

Excellent question. I would keep a basic black dress, a cardigan, a scarf and tights. It's an outfit rather than one thing.

70. Building up your wardrobe from nothing, what would you do differently this time?


71. What’s the first “investment” item you bought? Do you still own or wear it?

A Calvin Klein long linen wheat coloured cardigan. Gone gone gone.

72. Was there ever an important or paradigm-shifting purchase in your life?


73. What item of clothing are you still (or have you forever been) on the hunt for?

The perfect minimalist dress.

74. What are your closet and drawers like? Do you keep things neat, etc?

I am a neat person... about to get California Closets installed! Not sure why it has taken so long.

75. Were you ever given a present of clothing or jewelry that especially touched you?

Yes. When I turned 60, my husband gave me 3 thin bands (rings) from the Tiffany Paloma Picasso beaten gold collection.

76. Did you ever buy an article of clothing without giving it much thought, only to have it prove much more valuable as time went on? What was the item and what happened?


77. How and when do you shop for clothes?

Days off work. Online.

78. Do you like to smell a certain way?

LeLabo rose, as mentioned. Alternately, just clean!

79. How does how you dress play into your ambitions for yourself?

not concerned about this

80. How does money fit into all this?

As mentioned, I can afford to spend money on clothes but do not buy the concept that costly/designer is actually worth it. That's the 1960's talking! hahahaha

81. Is there an article of clothing, a piece of make-up, or an accessory that you carry with you or wear every day?

lip gloss and lipstick

82. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?


83. Do you remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing? Can you describe this moment and what it was about?

too hard to recall!

What’s your birth date? 
Where were you born and where do you live now?

January 12, 1951
Born in Montreal
Live in Vancouver
Lived for 5 years in Melbourne, Australia in the 1980's. That was fun!

What kind of work do you do?

College instructor

Are you single, married, do you have kids, etc.?

Married with 2 adult daughters

Please say anything you like about yourself that might put this survey into some sort of context.

I read a lot of blogs about women in their 50's and 60's. Not very satisfying. I get more out of Garance Dore!

How do you feel after filling out this survey?

Good! Thanks for the opportunity!! Love your book!


Martha is a wife, mother and long-time college instructor who has been running for years and started taking adult ballet classes a year or so ago (and loving it!). She considers herself a minimalist dresser but is utterly fascinated with the history of fashion. She has never dyed her hair.

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